The Ugly Truth About Learning Who You Are

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What is your personality type?”

“What does your zodiac sign say about your dating style?”

“Are you an extroverted introvert?”

We’ve all seen these types of quizzes pop up in our timelines, right?  There is an abundance of quizzes out there designed to tell us something about ourselves. The desire to understand and be understood is a natural part of the human condition.

So, if being understood is so important, why don’t we start with ourselves?

It sounds simple enough, but the truth is, learning about what makes us tick can be a difficult and uncomfortable process.  Once we start to dig in to better understand what makes us who we are, we run the risk of finding things we don’t like. Let’s be honest, thinking back on past traumas, failed relationships, and/or negative words that were spoken to us as children is enough to make anyone want to quit the self-examination process almost immediately… and that’s part of the problem.  

How do I know this?

“Alaina, I want you to know that I am so happy you’re here today. This is a really big step and it just shows how strong and brave you are.”

These are the words I heard from a complete stranger last summer. I sat on a couch in an awkwardly quiet room while I attempted to tell a counselor as much as I could about myself in under an hour. To be honest, after 45 minutes of pouring out my deepest fears and mistakes I felt the exact opposite of strong and brave.

”Counseling is for people that have experienced crazy, gut-wrenching traumas, right?  What I’m going through isn’t that bad. I shouldn’t even be here."

These thoughts echoed in my head several times during my first session as I tried convincing myself that I didn’t need to go back. This past year I’ve learned that the longer you avoid something, the harder it is to actually deal with. The roots grow deeper and deeper making the extraction process much more invasive. Our brains are so powerful that they can block out and hold on to information simultaneously, while in turn affecting our thoughts, choices, and how we treat others without us even realizing it.   

We coast through life and become content with saying “that’s just how I am.”  As long as we avoid the uncomfortable topics, we will never identify or address the underlying issue. Instead, we continue to walk through life making the same mistakes, entering into the same toxic relationships, and experiencing that same regrets over and over again. The saddest part is that a lot of us wait until we hit rock bottom before we start to take a hard look inside to learn about ourselves as if it’s our last resort. The worst form of self-sabotage is when we choose to ignore the source of our problems rather than dealing with them head-on because it’s easier.

What if we decided to put in the time and effort on the front end to understand ourselves, to spend time alone, to be completely open and honest with someone... especially ourselves?  Sure, we might experience loneliness. We might even have to be vulnerable about some things we’d rather keep hidden away. However, if we could find the courage to do so, we might be able to save ourselves a lot of heartache and setbacks in the long run. After all, if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves, who else is going to?

The fact of the matter is that everyone’s story and experiences are different. This means everyone’s personal growth journey will be too. There is not a one size fits all. I wish there were. Some of us, myself included, might need the guidance of a professional to help really sift through the dark corners that haven’t been touched in a while. For others, they need a self-help book and a week-long vacation. The options are endless and the good news is that growth can look however you want it to. The most important thing is that you start. Once you start, the less power the past will have over you. I personally have found freedom and growth in taking a long hard look in the mirror. Did that happen overnight? Absolutely not. It’s still happening. I still have to actively choose to stop avoiding the uncomfortable and because of that, I’ve experienced significant progress.  

Unfortunately, we live in a society where some people will tell you that it’s selfish to put yourself first. In the long-run, choosing to focus on your own needs and taking care of yourself is actually helping you learn how to properly care for others. What does that look like? It might mean separating yourself from relationships or situations that don’t add to your life, or realizing that nothing is “wrong with you” for spending time alone.  It’s actually quite the opposite of selfish. In fact, it’s brave, strong, and necessary for personal growth.

Join the Conversation: We want to hear about how you are taking the time to get to know yourself. Leave in the comments below one way you are striving to invest in yourself this year.